Cluley light cars were made by Clarke, Cluley & Co., then of Coventry but today a well-known engineering firm in Kenilworth. The firm was founded in 1890 as textile machinists but the post-World-War-I slump turned the attention of the brothers C. J. and N. F. Cluley to bicycles and cars.
The present General Manager, Mr. J. H. Squire, was then selling chassis frames for John Thompson of Wolverhampton and had to convince the Cluleys that a pressed-steel chassis was better than the hand-hammered frames they were then using. Incidentally, when we chatted to him recently of the “gay-twenties” he recalled that they were not so gay for some of the motor companies, for many of them were badly in debt and he used to accept cars in lieu of payment. There was the show-model Waverley that he acquired for his firm in this way, the drive from Willesden to Wolverhampton being memorable because previously he had only driven a model-T Ford! Even Standards had to pay-off with several Nines at one time!
Cluley decided on a 10-h.p. car in 1921 and A. Alderson came from Calcott to design it for them. Jackman of Bradford became an agent and N. F. Cluley went out to get orders. Most of the parts were made in one or other of the Coventry factories successively occupied by Clarke, Cluley & Co., one of which had previously been the M.L. magneto works. In 1927 E. Farbrother, who had designed the Windsor car, came to Cluley and planned the 2-litre 14/30 model, with Meadows engine. 1928, when the firm became a limited cornpany, was the last year of car production; the 14/50 was announced that year, of the same 13.9 h.p. rating as the 14/30 but with a stroke of 120 mm. instead of 110 mm., giving a swept volume of 2,120 c.c. Moreover, front brakes were specified on this model, which was priced at £350 as a special tourer, and £400 in saloon form, Triplex glass £23 extra. In all some 3,000 Cluleys were sold from 1922 to 1928, but the competition from Morris and Clyno had become too keen and with a revival in the textile industry car production was dropped.
Mr. Squire told us that in 1934 the firm started sub-contracting work for Rolls-Royce and during World War II was the only firm making camshaft brackets for the Merlin engine, the Kenilworth factory being expanded for this purpose. Today they manufacture parts for textile machinery and do work for Rolls-Royce, Westland, Rotol self-change gears, etc.
The original Cluley, of which half-a-dozen, probably more, still exist, was on the heavy side and it was not a very attractive-looking light car (the bodies were made by an outside firm) but there are still people in Kenilworth who remember this make, with its prominent radiator bearing a big, oval blue badge, as a satisfactory small car in its day. Mr. Squire is now a keen Rover owner and the Cluley directors also favour Rover and Jaguar cars. — W. B.
The Sunbeam Club‘s Veteran and Vintage Rally goes to Eastbourne this year, the up-to-100 mile journey there, followed by an afternoon time-trial, taking place on September 8th. The entry list is now open, closes with 150 entries or on August 20th, whichever happens first, and regulations are available from S. W. White, 16. Whitford Gdns., Mitcham, Surrey.